What Is The Impact of Smoking on Vascular Disease?

Smoking is one of the very strong risk factors for developing vascular disease. We have seen very young people who smoke develop vascular disease. Normally as our arteries become blocked, it is a part of aging. Most of the patients with vascular disease are in the 60's, 70s and beyond. But one who smokes very heavily, someone who started smoking very early in their teens, one who smokes one or two packs a day regularly... we see that they get vascular disease 10 to 20 years earlier. Some people in their 40s have severe vascular disease. So there is no question that smoking is a strong risk factor.

Also, if you can make then stop smoking. It is not so easy for a lot of people. But if you can make them stop smoking you can halt the progression of the disease. We have a lot of people whom we didn't have to operate. They came with severe symptoms. As soon as we realized they were really heavy smokers, we said was that, first, you must stop smoking and see. And a lot of their symptoms did not progress.

So there is no question that smoking is a strong risk factor for vascular disease, in addition to cancer and other things. It is also a factor in adversely affecting our treatments. Let us assume we do angioplasty or bypass. If the patient continues to smoke the results are not as good as someone who has stopped smoking. So our bypass is blocked much earlier and our stents are blocked much earlier. The results are not as good.

 How Does Smoking Affect The Vascular System? Several things, it is a multi-factorial. First, nicotine actually constricts the arteries. And by constant smoking you actually make your blood thick. It's called blood viscosity. Blood should actually be fluid in character that what allows it to flow through the arteries.

Imagine that the arteries are getting thicker and they are building up with plaque. And the blood is getting thicker. It is a very bad combination. If the blood was thin at least it could go through narrow arteries. Constant smoking will make your blood thicker. In fact, smoking and nicotine also increase the chance of clotting. Normally, in your body your blood should not be clotting. Smoking increases the risk of clotting of blood in the body. So it is a multi-factorial.


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